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Foods To Avoid With Amyloidosis

Posted on December 01, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Mark Levin, M.D.
Article written by
Maureen McNulty

Amyloidosis isn’t caused by foods that a person eats. Diet changes can’t prevent or treat this condition. However, eating a nutritious and balanced diet can help people with amyloidosis feel their best and avoid certain complications.

Complications During Amyloidosis

A complication is a health condition that develops alongside another disease or its treatments. In amyloidosis, the body makes abnormal amyloid proteins that build up in tissues, causing damage. This damage leads to complications when it prevents organs from working correctly. Different types of amyloidosis can cause complications in different parts of the body:

  • Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis, also called primary amyloidosis, often affects the heart, kidneys, nervous system, and digestive system.
  • AA amyloidosis or secondary amyloidosis usually causes kidney complications and may damage the digestive system, liver, and spleen.
  • Hereditary amyloidosis often leads to heart, eye, kidney, and nerve complications.
  • Wild-type amyloidosis leads to heart and nerve problems.
  • Dialysis-related amyloidosis primarily causes problems with the bones and joints.

These complications may vary between different people. Amyloidosis complications form based on where in the body amyloid deposits form.

Diet Changes To Help With Complications

In some cases, avoiding certain foods can help a person with amyloidosis stay healthy. Diet can play a role in preventing or worsening certain symptoms. The exact dietary changes you need to make depend on how the amyloidosis is affecting your body.

Ask your doctor if you should change your diet, based on the health changes that you are experiencing. Cutting out certain foods or ingredients can sometimes be a challenge. Try talking to a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist who can help you plan meals and make sure that you are receiving all of the nutrients you need.

Eating for Kidney Health

Several types of amyloidosis affect the kidneys. The kidneys’ job is to remove waste and extra fluid from the body. When amyloid deposits form in the kidneys, they may become damaged, making it harder for them to function. Over time, this can lead to kidney disease or kidney failure. Kidney problems may lead to symptoms like high blood pressure or swelling, especially in the hands and feet.

People with kidney complications need to watch their protein intake. Digested proteins can leave behind waste products that are usually removed by the kidneys. If a person with kidney complications eats too much protein, these organs may struggle to keep up. Eating less protein can prevent further kidney damage.

Eating less salt, including sodium, may also be necessary. This dietary change can help relieve symptoms like swelling and high blood pressure. Choose low-sodium foods and cook your meals with whole ingredients rather than eating processed foods. Ask your doctor how many milligrams of sodium you should be eating each day.

High levels of saturated fat and cholesterol can also be a problem for people with kidney dysfunction. When kidneys aren’t working correctly, blood levels of these substances may rise, causing additional damage.

Kidney damage can make it hard for the kidneys to remove extra fluid, leading to swelling, tiredness, and shortness of breath. You may need to drink less liquid in order to help your kidney keep up (fluid restriction). This includes water, soda, coffee, tea, alcohol, and other drinks. Some experts recommend drinking no more than six cups of liquids per day. Ask your doctor what a safe fluid level may look like for you.

Diet Changes for People With Heart Problems

People with heart complications from cardiac amyloidosis may need to make some of the same changes as those with kidney problems. Amyloidosis often leads to congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart can’t properly pump blood. Congestive heart failure also leads to fluid buildup, so people with heart disease from amyloidosis may need to limit their liquid intake.

Eating too much salt can also lead to additional fluid buildup. Doctors may recommend low-sodium diets for people with heart complications. In order to avoid salt, people may have to cook their own food so they can control how much salt is added.

Healthy Diets for Digestive Problems

When amyloidosis affects the gastrointestinal tract (digestive system), it can lead to a wide variety of symptoms. These may include swallowing difficulties, heartburn, nausea, gas, abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Changing your diet to avoid foods that can irritate your digestive system may help keep symptoms under control.

People struggling with acid reflux (heartburn) may notice that certain foods aggravate symptoms. Stay away from high-fat, salty, and spicy foods, including:

  • Processed foods
  • Fast food
  • Fatty meat and dairy products
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits

Avoiding fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) may help treat symptoms that involve the small intestine. FODMAPs are foods that tend to produce a lot of gas within the digestive system. Items that contain FODMAPs include wheat-containing foods, beans, dairy products, and certain fruits and vegetables.

Other intestinal problems like diarrhea or constipation can also be worsened by diet. People with diarrhea may want to limit high-fat, high-sugar, and high-fiber foods. On the other hand, people with constipation often need more fiber. They may want to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less processed foods.

What you eat matters, but so does when you eat. Some people with amyloidosis have problems with nausea and vomiting in the morning. Eating an earlier dinner and giving yourself more time to digest food before you go to bed may help. Smaller portions and liquid meals such as soup can also help prevent throwing up the next day.

It is important to experiment along these recommended lines and see what works for you.

Eating Well With Neutropenia

Neutropenia — low levels of white blood cells — puts a person at risk for infection. People with AL amyloidosis who have neutropenia may need to avoid foods that are more likely to cause infection. Soft cheese, blue cheese, mayonnaise, raw eggs, and yogurt are foods that can contain higher levels of bacteria.

Should People With Amyloidosis Avoid Protein?

Amyloidosis is caused by abnormally shaped proteins that build up in the body. This may make some people worry about the protein found in the foods that they eat.

In general, people with amyloidosis do not need to worry about protein intake. Amyloid proteins are made by the body, and they are very different from the protein that is found in food. Choosing foods that contain protein will not affect how much amyloid protein is made by the body. Eating protein from a variety of healthy sources, including poultry, fish, and beans, is generally a great way to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

However, there may be some cases in which a person with amyloidosis needs to lower their protein intake. In particular, people with kidney problems may need to eat less protein to keep kidney disease from worsening. Always follow your doctor’s medical advice when it comes to what to eat and what to avoid.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyAmyloidosisTeam is the social network for people with amyloidosis. On MyAmyloidosisTeam, members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with amyloidosis.

Are you living with amyloidosis? Have you found that you need to avoid certain foods? Share your experiences in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Mark Levin, M.D. is a hematology and oncology specialist with over 37 years of experience in internal medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. Learn more about her here.

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